How Racial Intolerance Crushed My Bittersweet Date to Smithereens


Two beautiful people robbed of love

They kissed in the moonlight but sadly squashed by light of day

Photo by Good Faces Agency on Unsplash

Look for the three clues that prompted Pete to call me. 

Part 1

It was a sunny St. Patrick’s Day in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1991. I arrived early, parked my car, and waited.

Shortly a blue pickup circled and parked. From a distance, he looked at me, jumped out of the truck, and cautiously approached, head cocked, his eyes questioning whether I was the one — his blind date from the classifieds.

Thinking the same, I watched this incredibly good-looking man draw close. Rolling down my window, I gazed into engaging teddy-bear eyes. Thick chestnut hair from his sculptured face painted with a full mustache, full lips, and a deep cleft in his chin.

“Donna?” he asked.

“Yes.”

He smiled, revealing deep, dangerous dimples. No way, I thought, this can’t be real — he can’t be my date!

“You’re beautiful,” he said.

“So are you,” I replied.

And so we met, Pete and I.

Momentarily we stared at each other. Sure, we had “clicked” over the phone, finding common-ground chemistry — but we were unprepared for this stirring physical attraction between us.

“Follow me,” he said.


For a clearer picture of what triggered this meeting and its full significance, let me back up to the beginning two days earlier.

Settled in Atlanta for six months now, I was ready to meet single men. Scanning the personals in the Atlanta Constitution I read the following ad:

SWM, 37, 5’10, handsome, seeking company of an older woman for fun and friendship.

I was 48. That description fit me. No restrictions noted, so I wrote a note that read:

Dear younger man, I read your ad with interest and am a little curious why you specifically ask for an older woman. As I see it, there are three possible reasons:

  1. You’re a gigolo looking for good times and money (Sorry, don’t have any)
  2. You’re a mama’s boy looking for a mother figure (No can do)… or
  3. You recognize the air of confidence, pizzazz, style, and loving wisdom of an older woman that translates into a beauty uniquely her own (Now, we’re talking!)

I’m new to the area, down from Ohio, and would be interested in talking with you. I’m 48, petite, very attractive, interesting job, a pocketful of insights, a woman of color, and if that’s no problem call me and let’s see what happens.

Sincerely, Donna.


Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Two weeks later Pete called apologizing for the delay in answering. He had been on vacation and had just picked up his mail and called me immediately after scanning my letter.

“Where did you vacation?”

“Antarctic,” he said. “It was a wilderness tour, just an Eskimo guide and me. I stood alone in a part of the world few men have ever stood. There with nature, the Arctic animals, the cold, and me. We conquered temperatures at -20° below in a tent with a kerosene heater.”

Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash

Pete continued to describe his trip so vividly that in my mind’s eye I saw seals gliding across the ice, stood in awe of majestic glaciers, heard polar bears roar, and lived like them outside my tent foraging for food.


“I’m originally from Alabama,” he continued, “a true southerner through and through.”

Hmm, quite liberal, I thought.

“Tell me about life in Alabama,” I asked.

He related stories, and we talked and laughed for more than an hour.

I glanced at my watch. “Oh, Pete, I have a 7:00 pm meeting. I’ll return home around 9:30.”

At 9:29 the phone rang, and we picked up right where we’d left off not missing a beat. A half-hour into the conversation, we agreed to meet for drinks, Friday after work at the Marriott’s sky-high restaurant overlooking downtown Atlanta.

We would meet in the parking lot of Wendy’s outside Buckhead and I would follow him into the city and park.

“Fine,” he said. “Oh, by the way, I have a question. I reread your letter and what did you mean you’re a woman of color?” 

My heart sank.

“You’re kidding,” I replied.

“No,” he said. “It’s an expression I’m not familiar with.”
(remember this is 1991)

I froze. Should I break this “charm” — this charged connection — this interchange of wit and wonder with this stranger who had, in just one hour, become my friend? …

“I’m black,” I simply stated.

The line fainted.

I waited. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds.

Slowly, stammered words whispered, “I didn’t know… I mean I wasn’t aware…”

Silence again.

I waited. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds.

“Donna, I’m so sorry. I was caught off guard. It never occurred to me…”

“Pete, your ad simply said ‘woman’. It didn’t specify race, so I responded.”

Silence again.

I continued, “Come to think of it, I thought you were mighty liberal for an Alabamian.”

At that, he burst out laughing and began to pull himself together.

Photo on Pixabay

“Again, I apologize. Thank you for not hanging up on me.… Really, I’m not prejudiced; this is just something I’ve never encountered. To be truthful, my family back home in rural Alabama hates black people. But I’ve come to know some damn decent people on the job here in Atlanta.”

“Well,” I said, “now you really have something to write home about.”

He roared like a tickled tiger.

Composed now, he said, “We’ll still meet Friday just because you’re such a nice person and I’d like to meet you.”

“Are you sure, Pete?”

“Yes.”

“Tell you what, call me at work Friday before we meet and let me know for sure.” That was my way of giving him an out.


Did you notice the two clues that prompted him to call?

  1. He scanned the letter. Didn’t read it carefully.
  2. He wasn’t familiar with the term: WOC.
  3. He had no reason to believe a black woman would respond.

Part II — The next post will answer these questions:

  • Why did he prefer an older woman?
  • What was his date with Donna like?
  • What prompted a moonlight stroll in the park?
  • How did the date end?
  • What’s next?

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